Monday, November 16, 2009
How do you say "chutzpah" in Arabic?
Save UN Security Council Resolution 242
How do you say "chutzpah" in Arabic? Because PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat showed unbelievable gall in telling Army Radio: "We're fed up with your time-wasting. We don't believe that you really want a two-state solution."
Talk about the kettle calling the pot black.
The Palestinian idea of negotiations goes something like this: Agree to our position in its entirety and then we can talk about the modalities of implementation. Lo and behold, this approach has not borne fruit so a frustrated PLO may turn to the UN Security Council to ask it to impose Palestinian demands on Israel.
To give Erekat and Mahmoud Abbas their due, today's Palestinian demands sound positively reasonable compared to those of PLO founder Ahmad Shukeiry, who in the days leading up to the 1967 war - when the West Bank and Gaza were in Arab hands - declared: "The Arab people's decision is unfaltering: to wipe Israel off the face of the map…"
And they're an improvement over what Yasser Arafat, post-Oslo, reportedly told a gathering of Arab diplomats in Europe: "We plan to eliminate... Israel and establish a Palestinian state. We will make life unbearable for Jews by psychological warfare…"
NOW Erekat and Abbas are wasting time and torpedoing a two-state solution with their intransigence.
Successive Israeli governments have offered to recognize a Palestinian state in the West Bank and in Gaza. But Abbas rejected Ehud Olmert's offer of 93 percent of the West Bank, plus additional lands from Israel proper to make up the difference, all of Gaza, and a free passage scheme between the Strip and West Bank. Under Olmert's proposal, Israel would retain its strategic settlement blocs - but all other settlements and outposts on the "Palestine" side of the border would be uprooted.
Ehud Barak made slightly less generous offers to Yasser Arafat at Camp David in July 2000 and at Taba in January 2001.
Barak, like Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in his June 2009 Bar-Ilan address, asked that Palestine be demilitarized so that it does not again become a launching pad for fedayeen attacks or a base for Iranian aggression - a real worry if Palestine falls to the Islamists.
Israel is also asking that Palestine absorb any "returning" Arab refugees within its territory.
Finally, Israel wants the Arabs to recognize it as the homeland of the Jewish people just as Palestine would be recognized as the homeland of the Palestinian people.
Any fair-minded observer would acknowledge that the Israeli position is not unreasonable, especially given our awful experience after the Gaza disengagement.
As for Jerusalem, the city cannot simply be divided by UN fiat, because north, south, east and west, Jerusalem is an organic whole. It will take tremendous goodwill to come up with a livable compromise.
Today's publication by Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi in cooperation with Al-Quds University of Where Heaven and Earth Meet: Jerusalem's Sacred Esplanade, might have suggested a modicum of helpfulness on the Palestinian side. Unfortunately, that Arab institution is now joining a PLO boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
BACK TO Erekat's chutzpah. The Palestinians created an artificial deadlock by suddenly insisting that they would not negotiate without a settlement freeze. Now Erekat's self-inflicted stalemate supposedly compels him to lobby the UN Security Council to, in effect, junk Resolution 242 - the edifice upon which the entire peacemaking process is constructed - and give its imprimatur to a new Palestinian declaration of independence claiming 100 percent of the West Bank and Gaza (though the Strip is under Hamas suzerainty) plus all of east Jerusalem including the Jewish holy sites. As it happens, Tuesday is the 21st anniversary of the PLO's unilateral declaration of statehood issued in Algiers.
It's clear why Erekat wants to abandon 242. The resolution's masterfully crafted language insists on an exchange of land for peace using the formula - "withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict" - that deliberately does not call for a pullback from all territories.
So rather than bargain in good faith to build a viable accord, Erekat and Abbas are betting on an outside imposed solution. Their way will not bring reconciliation, mutual security and peace, but doom yet another generation of Israelis and Palestinians to more bloodshed.
Would it not be better if the Palestinians returned to the bargaining table and the sooner the better?
Politico-Strategic Briefing... Enhance and deepen your understanding of Israel...Go beyond the 24/7 news cycle... Elliot Jager is a Jerusalem-based journalist, former NYU political science lecturer and a senior editor at The Jerusalem Report. He is a former editorial page editor at The Jerusalem Post and was founding managing editor of Jewish Ideas Daily (Mosaic). His 2017 book, The Balfour Declaration Sixty-Seven Words – 100 Years of Conflict told the story of what is, arguably, the most important political letter of the 20th century and why it still matters. Elliot will customize his briefings to suit your interests and schedule. He can meet you over breakfast before you start your day of touring or when you are back at your hotel.